Catching up, and my Permesso di Soggiorno

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. My dog lies on a quilt, on the floor in the library, as I still don’t have furniture yet. Next month there will be a loveseat and a couple of chairs for him to choose from when the afternoon sun creeps across the floor but for now, he is enjoying the open space.

My visit to Seattle was short and filled with an overwhelming amount of stuff and many wonderful people. I’m glad I got to see those I did, and sad that I missed others who, for various reasons, weren’t able to be in the same place I was at the same time. To all of those I visited, I am honored by your presence.

I have a string of photos from before and after my Seattle trip, from Duino to the Bavisela. We’ve had some lovely weather here in Trieste in the past week since I’ve been back, and I was able to see the mountains across the water for the first time since I arrived, which was a joyful moment. Duino definitely left me with a sense of why Rilke wrote the Elegies.

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Performers at Piazza Unità

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Duino – the old castle

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The poet contemplating Rilke at Duino

While I was in Seattle, I got notice that my Permesso di Soggiorno arrived. I went in with my brother to pick it up on Wednesday. His is a large sheet of paper, while mine is a plastic card with a chip, like a credit card. It’ll be much easier to carry without worrying about damaging it. My brother only stayed a couple of hours, as he had things to do in Aviano the next day. If the Anagrafe office had been open, we’d have gone in to register my residence with the city together, but this was not to be. I had to go in yesterday alone. Once again, a combination of English and Italian got me through the process.

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Duino castle from near the WW2 bunker

Sometime during the next two weeks, the police will come by my apartment to make sure I actually live here. I have to be at home in the mornings between 7am and noon. She asked what hours I preferred; I wasn’t sure if I could ask for later in the morning, but I suspect that the more time they have, the more likely they are to just get it over with. Once they visit, that will be the end of this particular part of the process. A month from now I’ll have my Carta d’Identita. My Permesso expires near the end of December of this year, so around October, I’ll need to start the process again but, with luck, next year’s will be valid for two years and I won’t have to worry about it so much.

The woman at the Anagrafe office told me to go to have the garbage tax for the apartment shifted over to my name, but we did that with the landlady back in February when I signed the rental contract. I was also instructed where to go to sign up for Italian national health care. I wasn’t told how to do it or how it works, but I did look up the website and click over to the page for foreigners, and it looks doable, though for that I’ll want my brother along to make sure things are clear for me. I’m going to need to find a woman OB/GYN at some point, along with a general practitioner, but I can probably talk to my regular doc about that when I see that person the first time. Issues for Women Of A Certain Age are arising and I need a consult with somebody.

Over the weekend, as noted above, we had the Bavisela. This is Trieste’s marathon, and it’s also a shorter walk/jog for people who don’t do marathons, starting from Duino and ending up at Piazza Unità. Saturday night I went walking out along the waterfront to see what was happening. They’d set up booths for the usual fair type stuff, and a ferris wheel. There was also a stage near Molo Audace and I happened along about the time a band was taking the stage for the evening. They were young guys in suits and narrow ties, kind of rocking an 80s look. They’d have seemed at home doing some Cars or Talking Heads, but they were playing stuff from Buddy Holly to the Rolling Stones, with a diversion for the Happy Days theme. They were enthusiastic, though the vocals needed some work, but they had the crowd up and dancing, and I had fun just hanging out watching the show. Every time I considered taking a ride on the wheel, both Saturday night and on Sunday, the line was too long for me to bother. It would have been a nice view of the city, though.

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Mountains over the Adriatic

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Bavisela crowds in Piazza della Libertà

Sunday morning, I didn’t go to bed until about 5am, but the people in the B&B upstairs were up about 5:30 thumping and bouncing so hard they were literally rattling my doors down here. Most of the time, the B&B guests are reasonably quiet. Occasionally I get thumpy ones, but these were tapdancing elephants. It was egregious and lasted for a couple of hours. I finally gave up around 7:30 and got up, showered, and staggered out to greet the day.

There were already crowds out in the piazza below my window, heading out of the city on buses for the starting points. I got out with the dog briefly but then took him inside so I could go for a walk. He’s not a city dog as yet, and it was a little overwhelming for him with the huge crowd. When I got out alone, I headed toward the center of town, feeling like a salmon swimming against the stream among all the orange-clad participants. I was the only person heading in that direction. The main street into town, Via Miramare, was closed, as was the waterfront main drag, the Riva III Novembre/Riva del Mandracchio/Riva Nazario Sauro. I may never see these main streets that quiet again until next year’s marathon.

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Everybody and their dog at the Bavisela

The weather today is really lovely, sunny and warm, and soon I’m going to finish my tea and wander out to sit on the pier and scribble in my notebook. Tomorrow I will probably hang out online with friends and watch the Eurovision finals. About Eurovision this year, I have only one thing to say: erotic butter churning.

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Detail from Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi

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Meeting Trieste

Monday my brother took me down to the coastal town of Caorla. After the pouring rain of the weekend (we got two inches or so and rained out the Befana bonfires), it was a gorgeous, sunny day, and relatively warm. He didn’t tell me where we were going. When we were nearly there he asked if I could guess.

Frankly, I hadn’t any idea where we were or even that the coast was anywhere near. The only thing I knew was that we were heading south, away from the mountains, but “south” covers a lot of territory from Aviano. Living on a huge, open plain, there are no real vantage points from which to see the surrounding territory, so I had no way to even guess we were near the coast. “Um, no,” I said. “I haven’t got any idea of the geography yet.” I think he was slightly disappointed.

Caorla

Caorla

 

Caorla seems like a lovely little seaside town. We walked along the paved path along the beach, but didn’t actually venture down onto the sand. I would have, had I been by myself, but I wasn’t sure where my brother was going or how long he wanted to spend out of the house. I very much enjoyed it, though.

 

Right on the beach is a little church. One side of the church tower has a large light on it, facing out to sea, so I imagine that it functions as a sort of lighthouse, though the light wouldn’t be visible from all directions. The stones along the sea wall are interspersed with a variety of stones that have been carved by different artists. Some of the carvings are whimsical (one of the first ones I saw was a head with an alligator or crocodile perched atop it like some Egyptian deity), while others seemed more abstract or more serious. They did liven up the waterfront walk quite nicely.

Church tower on the beach at Caorla

Church tower on the beach at Caorla

We finished up our short walk and had lunch at a seafood restaurant. The grilled fish was delicious but the rest of it was really only so-so. He hadn’t eaten there before, so it was a shot in the dark. The place he usually eats there was closed, as Monday was a holiday. Despite the mostly uninspiring food, I was glad to have a bright day, and to get some salt air in my lungs again. I’d been missing it mightily.

Yesterday, though, we got up at about 6:30am to get the train from Sacile to Trieste. My brother prefers to take the train from Sacile rather than Pordenone (which is closer) because you can actually find parking there, and the train isn’t as crowded when you get on. We got first class tickets because he wasn’t sure whether the second class compartments were going to be packed with students and commuters. By the time we got to Udine, there were crowds boarding, but first class remained relatively roomy by comparison.

I enjoyed the train ride up to Trieste. For quite some time, we were traveling over the plain but as we got more into the mountains, I began to feel much more at home. All I could think was, “This is more like it. This feels right.” I’ve been missing having hills surrounding me. I feel too exposed out here with nothing but space around me and I know I wouldn’t be able to live in a place like this, even in a city, for very long before it really started getting to me. I need the steep hillsides and the variety in the terrain to truly feel comfortable. I need the sea close at hand. I need to be able to look up and see the hills ranging into the mist, and the trees on the mountainside.

One of my brother’s friends had commented about the hills in Trieste, suggesting that I might have a rough time with them. Having lived in and around Seattle for so long, the thought mostly amused me. I can’t wait to be living between the mountains and the water again. I’m fine with climbing hills, and I can generally take my time if I’m walking. The exercise agrees with me. So far the only three complaints I have heard from anyone about Trieste are:

  1. The Bora wind. I figure the city is prepared for it and I can learn to live with it.
  2. There’s no parking. Since I can’t drive, this is irrelevant.
  3. Hills. See above.

If these are the only complaints people generally express, it can’t be that bad a place to live, can it? These may well be famous last words, but we’ll see what happens.

Trieste is a border city, on the edge of Slovenia. It was the seaport of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for a couple of centuries. During the Cold War, it was nearly as divided as Berlin, though without the physical wall. There was once a small US Navy base there, long gone now. The British writer, Jan Morris, wrote a book about the city called Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, which I read a month or so before coming to Italy. She made the place sound quite melancholy, which wasn’t the impression I got when we visited.

As we approached Trieste, Duino Castle was visible along the coast in the town of Duino, made famous in the literary world by Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies series of poems. Not much further along was Miramare Castle, built by the ill-fated Hapsburg Archduke, Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico. He lasted for about three years before he was executed by firing squad. Personally, I’m more of an Emperor Norton fan, myself, but the castle is lovely from the train, situated on a point overlooking the Adriatic. Sadly, the train windows were a little smudged and dusty for taking photos.

When we arrived at the Trieste station, there was a young man walking out into the city ahead of us; he was wearing a long and rather nice black cloak. “Okay,” I thought, “that looks about right to me.” The impression was further confirmed when we stopped at a bar across from the train station. A woman who may have been in her early 40s was one of the baristas, wearing nose and labret piercings with studs. Obviously among the conceptual group of “My People.” I felt a tiny spark of joy at seeing her.

Detail, Serbian Orthodox Church

Detail, Serbian Orthodox Church

In hopes of talking to some people with experience around Trieste, we went over to the American Corner. I’d found them on the internet when I was researching the city several months ago; they’re located at Piazza San Antonio Nuovo, number 6. There’s a library there that used to be part of the no-longer-operating American consulate in Trieste. When the last consul died in 2008, the State Department closed the consulate and never bothered to send anyone else, but the library remained and was taken over by a group of volunteers. Now they manage a library of books and movies, they host movie nights and English-language documentaries, offer English classes and Italian classes, along with other social gatherings. One of the things they host is a monthly gathering for English-speaking newcomers to Trieste to offer some orientation to the city and its services. The next one is on Friday the 17th, and I’ll be hopping on a train to go down for the weekend to attend.

Canal into the Piazza San Antonio Nuovo, Trieste

Canal into the Piazza San Antonio Nuovo, Trieste

The Facebook page for the organization had them listed at number 9, and the map pin on the page had them placed in yet a different location. I asked my brother to call them and we headed off to Piazza San Antonio Nuovo, along the waterfront up to the canal. “It’s after the Serbian church,” he was told.

There is no number 9 after the Serbian church. I don’t think there’s a number 9 at all, actually. I spotted a nondescript door in between a couple of businesses, with the typical column of resident/business labels and doorbells. “Maybe we should look at the door, there,” I said. “They might have a name tag up.”

“Oh, no,” my brother said, “I’m sure it’s around here somewhere. Let’s walk a little more.”

We walked around the block. We walked up to number 1 and down past the Serbian church. I said, “We should call them again.” He did.

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Serbian Orthodox Church, Piazza San Antonio Nuovo

It was, in fact, the door I’d suggested we check out. Naturally.

We went inside, up the tiny, ancient lift and into the offices. It’s actually a fairly nice location, with a number of rooms for their library collections, their movie room, classrooms for adults and kids. The volunteers we spoke to were quite nice and there’s apparently a thriving small community centered around the place. They have regular hours, but are often open if someone’s in the office just because someone is there. We had a very nice chat with Denise, who was helpful and quite informative. She gave me a stack of flyers for classes and events, and some contacts for people in the city who might be able to help with finding a place to live. “We’re always looking for volunteers,” she said. “Do you have any library experience?”

I’m not a librarian, but I live in one, and I’ve worked in bookshops and libraries before, so it’s likely I’ll be spending time there and probably doing some volunteer work myself, to get acquainted with people and start to find community. It’s always easier for me to talk to new people if I have an actual reason to speak with them, rather than just randomly approaching strangers; having A Thing To Do would be very helpful while I got settled in.

After our chat with Denise, we grabbed some lunch and called a rental agency. We had found a few places that looked like possibilities on an online rental site. She said to meet her at one of them at 2:30, so we spent a little time wandering around the area of the apartment we were going to look at. Denise had said the neighborhood was a nice one, and fairly quiet, which was encouraging. The building itself is across the street from the train station, in walking distance of pretty much everything, and at a fairly substantial hub of bus routes. The place was gorgeous inside, as well, so I’m currently in the process of dealing with attempting to get a rental contract. I emailed the agent today and gave formal notice that I want to rent the place; she’d texted my brother and asked me to do so, as they had another inquiry about the place today. I don’t know whether I’ll get it, but it would be ideal if I could, as it’s a lovely large place with a southern exposure and lots of light, in a place that was just renovated. The apartment went on the rental market not three weeks ago, right about the time I arrived in Italy. I’d love a place with light after spending ten years living in a cave.

Friday we’ll be going into Trieste again. Italian banks run very differently than US banks, and the only way you can withdraw cash from the bank without a bank card is to go into the branch where you opened the account. That means I’ll need one in walking distance of wherever I happen to live.

You can’t just walk into an Italian bank. The damned things have airlock doors equipped with metal detectors. With most of them, you can’t even carry your bag inside. You have to leave your purse or backpack in a locker outside the door, provided by the bank. It certainly seems like the sort of thing that would make robberies a lot harder, if nothing else. I’ll admit it all seems very strange to me, used to being able to walk into any branch of my credit union without having to pass through an airlock, and withdraw money if I there is a teller at the branch.

A lot of banks here don’t do online banking yet, either, so I had to spend time today searching Italian bank websites (mostly in Italian) to figure out what services they offered. I did find one on the waterfront, only a few blocks from the apartment I’m trying to rent, that actually has online services something like what I’m used to, including bill paying. It’ll make life a lot easier if I don’t have to deal with walking down to the bank for a check every month when I need to pay bills to places that don’t take cash. It looked like they might even set up automatic payments for rent, though I’m not certain. We’ll have to talk to them when we are in town again on Friday.

Neptune getting his Sea God on, behind the Piazza Unità d'Italia

Neptune getting his Sea God on, behind the Piazza Unità d’Italia

Before we headed back to Sacile on the train, we wandered around the city a bit. The more we walked, the more I thought, “This is a place I could live. I’d like living here.” We found ourselves in the Piazza Unità d’Italia and stopped at Caffè degli Specchi, a very famous and very elegant café. The place has a tea menu along with all the coffee, for which Trieste is quite famous. They have loose leaf tea, served in those wonderful Japanese cast iron teapots. It’s the first place I’ve found in Italy so far that had more than a little box of random tea bags, if they had any tea at all. Loose leaf tea. My day was made.

Tomorrow we’re supposed to go into Montereale Valcellina and see if we can get my ID card. My brother’s landlady was supposed to go file a declaration that I’m living here so that I can get the documentation. I have no idea if she’s had time to do that yet. We shall see.

Me and my bud, James Joyce, taking a walk along the canal

Me and my bud, James Joyce, taking a walk along the canal